Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY (MODERATOR): We shall now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. We will begin with an opening statement from the Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, please.
Happy new year. I would like to begin today with my sincere wish that this will be a wonderful year for all of you.
Here at the start of the new year, I would like to state three principles regarding the type of nation I seek to create.
These three aims are, to make 2011 the base year for launching a 21st-century opening up of Japan; to achieve a society in which human suffering is reduced to a minimum; and to engage in politics that rectifies matters that are absurd. Currently a significant number of countries around the world have been enjoying ongoing growth and are poised to catch up with and overtake Japan. In speaking with the leaders of such countries, time and again I have been told that they have been making these efforts setting Japan as their goal and taking Japan as their model. Indeed, Japan can be said to have served as a "big brother" providing financial and technical assistance to a large number of countries thus far. I intend for Japan to support the growth of such countries into the future as well. At the same time, I consider it necessary now for us to utilize the energy of those countries as the energy of Japan, thereby leading to growth in Japan.
To achieve this I will accelerate the liberalization of trade. At the same time, I will advance the revitalization of agriculture in which young people are able to participate. These two undertakings must be carried out. I intend to make the year 2011 the base year from which we launch such an opening up of Japan, not focusing solely on people, goods, and capital, but rather on the Japanese people as a whole turning internationally, as occurred in the Meiji Restoration and in the postwar era. In order to move forward with this opening up of Japan, what will be critical above all is the minimization of factors leading to human suffering, including poverty and unemployment. Insecurity about the future of the social security system is spreading. In last year's House of Councillors election campaign, I was unable to gain sufficient understanding among the public regarding the consumption tax, as I had touched upon it somewhat abruptly, but it is readily apparent to all that it is now necessary to discuss the state of social security and the fiscal resources necessary for it, as well as the reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax. Fortunately, the Liberal Democratic Party and The New Komeito Party have both indicated their willingness to do so. I believe that now is the time for us to take up these issues. I intend to initiate discussions that transcend party lines, including discussions on the issue of fiscal resources, in order to consolidate a solidly-established system of social security. I urge participation by members of the opposition parties as well.
In the area of security issues in Asia and the Pacific, our actions must take into account the security and stability of this region as a whole, rather than benefit only Japan. I will press forward with the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance from the perspective that this reinforcement is necessary precisely to ensure stability in just such an Asia-Pacific region.
As we pursue the opening up of Japan in this way, there is one more thing that must be considered. That is for us to address squarely those matters that the public considers absurd.
When I learned that a substantial number of human remains still lie on the island of Ioto, a part of the Tokyo Metropolis, I found it inexplicable how such a situation had come to be. Upon becoming Prime Minister, I established a task force team that conducted research at United States' public records offices and thereby succeeded in locating a large burial site. The other day a memorial ceremony was held which I myself attended. It is the responsibility of the nation to return the remains to their families.
In addition, young people find that even upon graduation there are no jobs to be had. People having babies find that there are no places to take care of their children. And, insufficient financial allowances are provided to those suffering from various intractable diseases. I also intend to address issues such as these in a thorough manner. I myself have been addressing these issues, through the convening of task force teams. Amongst matters such as these that can be considered absurd, for those issues regarding which it is appropriate for me to be directly engaged, I will be resolutely assembling new task force teams in the future as well.
As for one more matter that is absurd, there is also the issue of "money politics." The very first House of Representatives election in which I was a candidate was the one dubbed the "Lockheed Election." I first stood for office at the age of 30 in the belief that unless something was done about "money politics," democracy in Japan would head in the wrong direction.
"Money politics" is even at present viewed by the public with a sense of suspicion. As we advance numerous reforms into the future, it is simply unacceptable to have the public partake in this pain. I intend to make this the year in which we firmly draw the line regarding the issue of such "money politics." I will also endeavor to have former [DPJ] President [Ichiro] Ozawa provide a thorough explanation at the Diet regarding his own issues in this area.
As a final point I would like to speak about the Diet. I myself served for many years as a member of the opposition and at times I criticized the government harshly. This is because through such endeavors, I hoped to show to the public the inconsistencies in the policies of the administrations of the time.
Yet as I look back upon it now, I feel that in some cases my party or indeed I myself may have been too focused on the political situation and our deliberations on policy may not have been sufficient in every case. With the change of government having occurred more than once, essentially all political parties now have the experiences of having been both a governing party and an opposition party. The Diet regrettably focusing on such things as calling for the dissolution of the Diet or the resignation of the entire Cabinet for political ends, rather than on policy deliberations, means that it is not necessarily living up to the expectations of the public. We [of the DPJ] also regret this. In such a context, I wish to transcend the lines of the ruling and opposition parties to forge an orientation in which, in the eyes of the public, and in the eyes of you in the media, the Diet is seen as earnestly determining policies for the sake of the people of Japan without regard for party lines.
Against such a backdrop, there are two points in particular regarding which I would like to make specific requests. The first of these is that the content of the questions to be asked at the Diet be presented at least 24 hours prior to their being asked. For the sessions of the Budget Committee and elsewhere during the previous extraordinary Diet session, there were time constraints in that it was all I could do to arise at 5 AM on the days of the Committee sessions to read through and get a firm grasp of the questions submitted on the previous day. Under such circumstances it is not possible to have discussions in the real sense of the word. In the United Kingdom, the convention is to submit a summary of the points of inquiry three days in advance, so I would like by all means to reach agreement, regardless of ruling or opposition party, on the submission of the contents of questions at least 24 hours in advance.
In addition, international conferences and the like are extremely important, and they are even strongly asserted to be an opportunity for ideas to be sold at the very highest levels. When it is in the national interest for Cabinet members to travel abroad in such cases, we should dispatch the Ministers by adjusting the schedule of the Diet as necessary, as a matter that transcends ruling or opposition party. I would very much like to engender such a customary practice as well.
Such matters are the very roles of the Diet itself and, at the same time, they are more in keeping with what the Diet should be, in the view of both the public and the media. I would very much appreciate hearing proactive third-party perspectives regarding such matters.
These are my thoughts as we begin the new year. For the remainder I would like to take questions from the floor. Thank you very much for listening.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I would like to move into questions. I will designate who will ask the questions. If you are selected, please first state your media affiliation and name before posing your question.
REPORTER: Happy new year to you, Mr. Prime Minister. I am Matsuyama with the Fuji Television Network.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The ordinary session of the Diet is the forum for deliberating the budget, which is the most important thing in the daily lives of the public. I want to conduct thorough deliberations on that budget and pass it as expeditiously as possible in order to make a positive contribution to people's daily lives. My fundamental stance is to create the strongest possible system heading towards that goal. As you mentioned, in order to do so, various elements must be considered, and I will carefully consider the specific issues further, taking this as my fundamental orientation.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next question now, please. Mr. Yamashita, please.
REPORTER: I'm Yamashita with the Hokkaido Shimbun.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Mr. Ozawa has himself stated that he will explain the matter at the Diet, and I would like for him to take actions in accordance with those words. Should there actually be an indictment, I believe that he should clarify his future course of action as a politician, and if he is going to focus his energies on the trial, then he should do so.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next question, then. The gentleman over there, please.
REPORTER: I'm Wada with the Fuji Television Network.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As I stated earlier, I consider social security and its related fiscal resources, which include the reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax, to all be an integrated whole. Within my party, such an approach has also been established as party policy, and a large number of other parties are also calling for discussing together [across party lines] the system of social security and the accompanying issue of fiscal resources. In light of these orientations, the issue is not which of these [(i.e., reform of the social security system or addressing fiscal resource issues)] should come first.
REPORTER (WADA): What I would like to inquire about is the timing at which you will reach a final decision regarding each of these objectives.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for the issue of social security and related fiscal resources, if possible I hope to convene consultations transcending party lines, including both the ruling and the opposition parties, at as early a time as possible. In addition, I hope to indicate a direction forward taking sometime around June as a goal.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, the next question, then, please. Mr. Matsuura, go ahead.
REPORTER: I'm Matsuura with Kyodo News.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The thought of dissolution has not even entered my mind.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next I would like to take a question from the foreign press. Mr. Hirokawa, please.
REPORTER: I am Hirokawa with Bloomberg.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: We are currently examining the concrete measures that, should we participate in the TPP, would be necessary to address agricultural concerns. Taking into account those discussions, I consider roughly June to be one goal for making a final determination. I would like such a situation to arise at as early a time as possible.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'll take the next question now. All right, Mr. Yamaguchi, please go ahead.
REPORTER: I'm Yamaguchi with NHK.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: While I stated my fundamental view in my opening remarks as well, the Diet to some extent has the aspect of grappling for power, insofar as political parties are involved. Yet while this is unavoidable, in looking at advanced nations in which changes of government occur repeatedly, for example in the United Kingdom and other such countries, when there is newly a change in government the next election is held generally speaking five years later. Debates take place, but debates immediately afterward calling for the administration to step down or continue on are quite unusual. In a great many countries, once the government changes hands, the governing party holds the reins of government for a certain period of time. They undertake their policies for several years and then on the occasion of the subsequent election put the question to the citizens. I think that this is a constructive way for changes of government to operate. In that light, my stance of expecting thorough discussion of policy issues has not changed fundamentally.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I'll take the next question. Mr. Igarashi, go ahead.
REPORTER: I'm Igarashi of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: In 1980, the year in which I was first elected to office, former Prime Minister [Kakuei] Tanaka was called the "Shadow Shogun." To this day I still recall that seeing that situation strengthened further the feeling I had that Japanese politics had to be changed.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Another question, please. Mr. Uesugi, please.
REPORTER: I am Takashi Uesugi, a freelancer.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for the state of press conferences, having received on several occasions at these press conferences questions, or should I say proposals, I have approached my own press conferences with the stance that they should be as open as possible. At Cabinet meetings and ministers' meetings I have also been encouraging each minister to approach the matter taking that same orientation, to the extent possible.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'd like to take the next question, then. Mr. Goto, please.
REPORTER: I'm Goto with the Jiji Press and I would like to ask about the budget proposal for the 2011 fiscal year.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: From the standpoint of someone who formulated the budget, I can say that a Cabinet decision was taken on this budget because it was the most appropriate for the Japanese people. At the same time, there is another major element, in that we wish to gain the understanding in the Diet of a large number of legislators from other parties, and to obtain approval from an even greater number of legislators, if possible. I will determine my handling of the situation keeping both of these points in mind.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next question, please. Mr. Sakajiri, please go ahead.
REPORTER: I am Sakajiri with the Asahi Shimbun. I have a question about cooperation with opposition parties.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Including the various efforts of 2010, I am of the understanding that we have been moving forward taking as the basis the matter of whether or not we could work together in policy areas. That stance remains the same towards all parties in the upcoming Diet session as well.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right then, we'll take the next question. Mr. Aoyama, please.
REPORTER: I'm Aoyama of the Nippon Television Network.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Numerous ways of thinking from various experts have been indicated to me to serve as a reference to me. To cite an example, in the House of Representatives there is what is termed a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, and you are all well aware that should such a motion be passed, the provisions are that either the entire Cabinet resign or, alternately, the House of Representatives be dissolved. However, in the case of censure in the House of Councillors, even should it be passed against the Cabinet, this does not result in having to choose between resignation and dissolution. That is to say, there are no provisions in the Constitution for the dissolution of the House of Councillors.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right then, I'll take the next question. The gentleman in the far back, please, over there.
REPORTER: I am Saito, with Rakuno Keizai Tsuushin, a specialty journal.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I believe that it will be necessary to discuss an entire spectrum of relevant matters as we work towards the revival of Japanese agriculture. At the same time, as I stated previously, at present, the challenges facing Japanese agriculture include such issues as the fact that, for example, the average age of persons engaged in agriculture is 66, making it difficult to have opportunities for young people to engage in agriculture even when they desire to.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We have now gone beyond our scheduled time, so this will be the last question. The gentleman over there, please.
REPORTER: I am Inafuku, with the Ryukyu Shimpo.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Although only to a limited degree, I have had the opportunity to read some books touching upon the history of Okinawa and related matters. Even if we look only at the post-war period, since Okinawa's reversion to Japan, the number of U.S. military bases on Okinawa has not been significantly reduced, despite significant reductions of such bases on the mainland, that is to say, in areas other than Okinawa. I myself as a politician was overwhelmed with regret at this fact, and I have stated this in Okinawa as well. In light of that, I do consider this situation to be one of these "absurdities," although I am not certain that the word "absurdity" expresses the situation correctly.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.